THE NOT-SO-MELTING POT!

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Lebanon keeps going through more divisions and further population segregation!
A few years ago the former Chairman of the USA’s Federal Reserve Mr. Alan Greenspan said, “When the USA sneezes the world catches a cold.” He was then referring to the USA’s financial market and its interconnectedness with the rest of the globe. That line can be modified to say, “Whenever any country in the Arab world sneezes, Lebanon catches a cold!”

Prior to the most recent civil war that lasted from 1975 till 1990, Lebanon was divided mostly on a class basis. There were rich Lebanese and poor Lebanese. The civil war divided the country into two main factions that appeared to be Christian and Muslim and which resulted in splitting Beirut, the capital city, into Eastern Beirut where residents were mostly Christian and Western mostly Muslim Beirut. Waves of population-redistribution moving activities were also observed throughout most of Lebanon during that war, which resulted in people having to conduct fire?sales of their homes in order to move into safer and more homogeneous neighborhoods.

Fast-forward to the twenty first century. Ever since 2005, when a series of mysterious assassinations plagued the country, Lebanon has experienced more divisions and further segregation. This time it is based partly upon what appears to be differences among various Islamic sects. Although some socio-political analysts like to describe these differences as political and as symptoms of a struggle to gain more power as well as a bigger piece of the pie, the sectarian issue is visible.

The current turmoil in the Middle East is causing, or rather revealing, more divisions in the small ailing, fragile, and vulnerable country of Lebanon, with some Lebanese parties siding with various regimes. This, combined with large numbers of refugees from neighboring countries that disturb the sensitive balance among the various fragments, is creating a very volatile situation and an unpredictable environment and it constantly “stirs-up the pot.”

In the meantime while not many people were paying attention, Lebanon has turned into a multicultural and multiethnic society with an abundance of foreign migrant workers who may soon outnumber Lebanese citizens, and who are doing the “unskilled” jobs that Lebanese people are too proud or should we say “too vain” to take on, such as housekeeping, construction, gate keeping, farming, security, and so on. Walking around Beirut one begins to think that it is New York, with nationals from countries such as Ethiopia, Philippine, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sudan, and Egypt, not to mention Western countries whose nationals usually do high-skilled white-collar consulting jobs. One should also note the UNIFIL forces stationed in Southern Lebanon.

It is very interesting that Lebanese people do not mind ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity when it comes to foreign nationals in the country, but are increasingly less tolerant of differences amongst themselves. This could be taken as a clear indication that the differences arise from a political power struggle rather than religious or ideology differences.

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